As we all know, our bank accounts can help us achieve many things, like saving money, paying for bills on time and giving us the ability to shop online – but can they help to build your credit score as well?
Well, the good news is that, yes, your bank account can, in fact, help to build your credit score. The amount it can help to improve your score is dependent on the features your banking provider can offer you, and what steps you’ve already taken to improve your score. But first, it’s important we understand what a credit score is and why it’s vital to keep it in good check.
Understanding your Credit Score to Improve It
Your credit score is a rating used by lenders to help determine whether you qualify for a line of credit such as a mortgage, credit card or purchase something on finance. It helps lenders determine how trustworthy you are, and how likely you are to pay the money back.
As you may be aware, a credit score can significantly affect your financial life. It directly influences whether a lender will offer you credit, how much credit they will offer you and how much money you’ll likely pay back in interest.
Your score is calculated by evaluating five factors, including:
- Your payment history – Whether you’ve ever missed or been late with making repayments (this counts towards 35% of your credit score)
- The total amount of money you owe – All your outstanding debts on other bank cards, loans, overdrafts or credit plans (this accounts towards 30% of your credit score)
- The length of your credit history – Longer credit histories are considered less risky as there’s more data to determine spending habits and previous payments (this counts towards 15%)
- The types of credit you have – This gives lenders information on instalment credit, mortgages, car loans and revolving credit like credit cards (this counts towards 10% of your total score)
- Any new credit you may have taken out – big jumps in credit can be a warning sign to lenders as it could signal a change in your financial position (this also counts towards 10% of your credit score)
When information is updated on an individual’s credit report, their credit score will either rise or fall. So, how will your current account help to increase your credit score?
The Type of Bank Account
There are many different bank accounts available to choose from, but we’re focusing on the ones that allow you to manage your everyday banking needs, like current accounts. However, what it really comes down to is whether you have a basic bank account or not.
Basic current accounts don’t offer any kind of credit facility, so you won’t be able to prove to lenders that you’re capable of paying an overdraft or credit card back with this type of account. However, there are still ways basic bank accounts can help towards building your credit score.
Get Straight to Business by Setting up Direct Debits
Setting up regular direct debits to automatically pay your bills will not only remove the stress of having to remember to pay a bill on time but also ensure that you don’t miss any payments full stop.
Direct debits are easily forgotten about, so make sure to check your online banking to make sure you’re not paying for something you no longer use like that old monthly magazine subscription that you no longer read.
Do you Have the Correct Details?
Issues with your address can cause mistakes on your credit file. Even a slightly wrong address can affect your rating. Credit reference agencies use your address to help match your credit information, so if your address or out of date or incorrect, it can lead to incomplete information appearing on your credit report.
You should ensure that the details you have with your bank are correct and if they need updating you should contact your banking provider as soon as possible. It can take a month or two for this change to appear on your report, but it will help to boost your score in the long run.
Have You Ever had a Joint Bank Account?
If you have or have ever had a joint bank account with your partner, friend, or family member, who’s credit score is poor, then this can affect your own.
Having a joint account means you’ll be ‘co-scored’, as both your names will appear on the account together. If you’re looking to borrow credit in the future, lenders will not only check your credit score but also the score of whoever you share the joint account with.
If you no longer use your joint account and want to remove the financial association on your credit score, you will need to contact your banking provider to remove the other person as a secondary user on your current account.
Once you’ve done this, it’s worth checking with each credit reference agencies (Experian, TransUnion, and Equifax) that the links between you and your friend or family member have been removed.
How to Avoid Credit Mistakes Most People Make
Some financial behaviours can prevent your credit building efforts, so it’s important to understand what to avoid. Here are five common mistakes that people make:
Not Understanding What’s Affordable
On each credit account you hold, it’s best to utilise less than 25% of your credit limit to optimise your score. Your debt-to-income ratio should also be less than 43%. This means that only 43% of your total monthly, or weekly income should be spent on paying off any debt. You can work this out by dividing your monthly debt obligations by your gross monthly income.
Not Organising your Money Properly
Having a personal budget helps you to assess your money and keep track of any payments you need to make, save for your future of just make better decisions about how you handle your money. By creating a budget that works for you, it will show you where you are with your money and help you to plan for a rainy day and see what’s affordable.
Forgetting to Shop Around
Unfortunately, people who suffer from a poor credit score are often rewarded with higher interest rates and monthly instalments. So, choosing a loan that’s actually affordable and doesn’t come with high-interest rates is a priority. You should treat loans, mortgages, and other credit facilities as another buying decision, as you will need to pay all the money back in the end.
Comparison sites are a good bet here, as they will allow you to find the lowest rates, fees and charges that are appropriate for you and your credit score. However, it’s worth checking on the lender’s website to see if you would be eligible before applying, as being declined for credit can negatively impact your credit score.
Are you Protected Against Fraud?
Although banking providers take extensive measures to protect customers against fraud, it’s important that you also protect yourself.
You can do this by only leaving your house with the bank card you need – or use a digital payment tool such as Google Pay, which has a limit of £100. You should also shred any financial documents such as receipts or bank statements and monitor your transactions regularly and report anything suspicious to your banking provider.
If you do notice anything, remember to freeze your bank card and get in contact with your bank immediately, so they can investigate and send you a new credit or debit card out.
Applying for Credit too Frequently
If you’re applying for different lines of credit in a short amount of time, this can indicate to credit reference agencies that you’re taking on a lot of new revolving debt, which applies that you could use more credit than you can actually repay and has the potential to negatively impact your 43% debt-to-income ratio.
Additionally, when lenders check your credit file to see if you meet their criteria for lending, this is known as a hard credit check. A hard credit check appears on your credit record and having multiple of these checks over a short space of time can also have a negative impact – even if you can afford the repayments.
Fixing Mistakes on your Credit Report
If you do spot any mistakes on your credit file, then you need to report them to the credit reference agencies, which you can usually do online.
The agency then has 28 days to remove the information or explain to you why they disagree with you. However, during that time the mistake will be marked down as ‘disputed’ which means lenders aren’t allowed to rely on it when assessing your rating.
If you’re familiar with the credit provider who has made the mistake, it’s best to contact them to see if they can remove the incorrect entry from their end as they’re usually in the best position to resolve this for you.
Additionally, you can add a ‘notice of correction’ to your credit report if there is information on your file that is accurate but doesn’t reflect your current financial situation. For example, if you got into debt problems when you were made redundant but you’re now back in work.
3 Easy Ways to Boost your Score
It can take from anywhere to a few weeks, months or years to notice changes to your credit score but there are some small things that you can do to help:
Pay your Bills on Time
It might sound like an obvious thing to do but paying your bills on time is a sure way to build your credit score. Six months of payments made on time will result in a noticeable difference to your score (you’ll probably also avoid a late fee!). To do this it’s worth setting up a standing order or direct debit to ensure you bills are never paid late.
However, it’s worth noting that you do need around a 16-month gap from any missed payments to see your score be fully optimised and back in the green.
Up your Credit Line
This doesn’t mean to open new credit accounts but increasing the ones you already have. If you have a credit card, overdraft or instalment plan and your accounts are in good standing, you should be able to get an increase (if you’re not already at the limit).
Although, it’s important not to spend any extra credit to keep your credit utilisation score low and prevent yourself from getting into any financial difficulties.
Keep Credit Accounts Open
Depending on the age of the account and the limit available, it can actually do more harm than good to close the account. So, if you’re no longer using a certain credit card or overdraft facility, it’s best to make sure the account is fully paid off and left open – rather than closing it down.
In the UK, the average credit limit is between £3000 and £4000, you should aim to have a credit limit of £4000+. This will help with your score, as you will be considered ‘better than average’ with lenders.
So, for example, if you had £1000 worth of debt and a £5000 credit limit across all your lines of credit, this is good for your credit score as your credit utilisation is around 20%.
However, if you decided to close one of your accounts that had a £2000 credit limit but the debt remained the same then you would be using 33% of your total amount of credit – well over the recommended 25% limit.
Keeping your Credit Record in Check
When it comes to your credit score, it needs to be treated as a priority if you think you’ll need a mortgage or a loan in the future. However, your score can also affect your ability to get a new mobile phone or broadband or change your current account.
If your credit score has affected your ability to change your account, then we’ve got you covered. Here at Suits Me®, we believe in financial inclusivity, meaning that we think everybody – regardless of their credit score, background, or financial position – should be entitled to a suitable banking-like facility.
Our accounts come with a contactless Mastercard® debit card, online account, and a mobile app – so you can manage your finances 24/7. You can create standing orders and manage your direct debits with ease to ensure that you never miss a payment.